Nova Scotia’s doctors have voted overwhelmingly in favour of two new contracts, Doctors Nova Scotia confirmed Wednesday.
Overall, physicians will see a two-year freeze on fees followed by a 1 per cent and 1.5 per cent increase in the last two years of the agreement. The agreement is retroactive to April 2015 and ends in March 2019.
While doctors won’t see an increase in fees, they will be able to charge fees in new areas. The biggest change will allow physicians to bill for over the phone consultations between family doctors and patients and family doctors and specialists.
Eighty per cent of physicians voted in favour of the master agreement, according to Doctors Nova Scotia. The smaller agreement covering physicians with academic work was passed with 87 per cent support.
The master agreement covers 2,830 physicians, retirees, and clinical/academic physicians.
The second contract covers roughly 630 physicians who also vote on the master agreement but also fall under a separate agreement for physicians who teach or do research in addition to clinical care.
Swallowing a bitter pill
While the doctors association recommended the deal to physicians, it is not celebrating the agreement.
Doctors Nova Scotia President Dr. Michelle Dow used a release with the details of the agreements to highlight a number of outstanding issues, including physician recruitment, the lack of family doctors in the province, and concerns about the direction of health care in Nova Scotia.
“While physicians accepted the contract and welcomed modest critical investments, they were disappointed that this contract brought little innovation or opportunities to advance patient care,” Dow said in the press release.
“We now need to turn our attention to issues that have gone unaddressed for far too long.”
The doctors association estimates between 50,000 and 100,000 Nova Scotians don’t have a family doctor and says some communities have gone without a doctor for months or longer.
“I have colleagues that are ready to retire, some years earlier, but continue to practice in fear that their patients will be abandoned as government doesn’t seem to be placing any level of urgency on recruiting new doctors,” Dow said.
“At the same time, new graduates are saying they want to practice here, but they don’t know if they are wanted, so they are choosing other provinces instead.”